Don’t get me wrong. I think the world needs a Superman. I think we can all benefit from the story of someone who, on finding himself more powerful than those around him, chooses to use his strength to help and protect others. This is a good story for us to be telling. Comic books certainly aren’t the only place, or maybe even the best place to tell this story, but it’s a good story to be telling.
Still, I happen to relate more to the Batman myth. It’s not exactly the fact that he’s a regular human being fighting a superhero’s war, because—let’s not kid ourselves—any suggestion that Bruce Wayne is a “regular human being” is simply incorrect. Besides inheriting an apparently inexhaustible fortune, he has a number of qualities—his drive, his intelligence, his infallible talent for going just far enough in his war against crime without ever going too far—that place him firmly outside the range of normal human ability.
Still, Bruce Wayne was not born to fight crime. Not even the murder of his parents forced him down the hero’s path. It’s the fact that he had a choice to make that I can relate with most. Superman was always going to be the most powerful man on earth; for him it was just a question of whether to use his powers for good or for evil (or “for awesome“). Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, starting without strength or skill, made the choice to expend his every resource, every last ounce of will, to become a force for good in the world. He took the very worst day of his life, and used it to fuel a heroic transformation. As someone who doesn’t tend to feel drawn through life by the pull of destiny, I appreciate the self-determination and ambition that Batman embodies more than Superman’s sense of self and duty.
Besides, when Batman and Superman actually went head-to-head, who do you think came out the winner? Batman, of course. You can bet it wasn’t a fair fight; Batman made sure of that. But he won. ‘Cause that’s just the way Batman rolls.
Suggested Superman Reading: Superman: Secret Identity.